New Report Highlights How Kansas City Can Make It Cheaper, Faster, Simpler to Start Small Businesses

Report was conducted by nonprofit in conjunction with city officials and business owners

Dan King
Dan King · March 20, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo.—Today, a new report was released making eight different policy recommendations that Kansas City officials can apply to ease the burden of starting a business. The report is the latest in a series conducted by the Institute for Justice (IJ) as part of its “Cities Work” initiative, through which the nonprofit organization partners with local governments, community advocates, and business owners to make it cheaper, faster, and simpler for entrepreneurs to start businesses. 

Now that the report is finished, the Cities Work team will work with the City Council and Small Business Task Force to help implement the suggested reforms to ease the regulatory burden on would-be small business owners.   

“You shouldn’t need a law degree and a pile of cash to start the small business of your dreams,” said IJ Assistant Director of Activism and Cities Work Director Jennifer McDonald. “The policy recommendations in this report will help ensure that red tape doesn’t get in the way of anyone with the talent and fortitude to be a successful entrepreneur from opening a small business.” 

The eight policy recommendations are: 

  1. Reduce compliance costs to entrepreneurs; 
  1. Eliminate, consolidate, and simplify permits and licenses; 
  1. Bring clarity and accountability into the business inspection process; 
  1. Remove or address inefficient or confusing department processes and ordinances; 
  1. Clarify the process for change of occupancy and change of use; 
  1. Continue building out the city’s one-stop shop and online tools for entrepreneurs; 
  1. Increase access to city resources and staff; and 
  1. Empower city employees to help entrepreneurs and improve communications with entrepreneurs. 

“Kansas City prides itself on being ‘The City of Entrepreneurs,’” said IJ Policy Associate Jesse Goulding, a co-author of the report. “With the support of the Small Business Task Force, we look forward to making the moniker even more true.” 

The report includes data on how Kansas City stacks up to other cities in terms of the barriers that exist to starting a business. For example, the report found both the cost and number of steps involved in starting a restaurant in Kansas City were greater than those in St. Louis. 

Additionally, the report includes testimony from small business owners about their struggles navigating the city’s regulatory environment. 

“For me the most frustrating part is the lack of coordination between our city’s departments,” said Tyler Enders, co-founder of Made in KC. 

“Over a year and a half of me going to city hall and not taking ‘no’[for an answer],” said another entrepreneur, who asked to remain anonymous. “Imagine how many people stopped at the ‘no.’ We lost so many [small businesses] because of that initial ‘no’.” 

“Cities Work” is an initiative of IJ, which partners with city leaders across the country to make it cheaper, faster, and simpler to start businesses by identifying and rectifying regulatory barriers to entrepreneurship. IJ is a national public interest law firm that advocates for entrepreneurs throughout the country. Cities Work is funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation